The Packing Shed, Bickley Valley

The Bickley Valley area of the Perth Hills is fast becoming a must go weekend destination. There’s wineries, cafes, mini golf and the popular Core Cider House. To me, the spot nestled just behind Kalamunda is a far prettier drive than the Swan Valley, with its native bushland, winding roads and green rolling hills covered in vineyards and orchards, giving it a real country feel.IMG_9659

The Packing Shed opened up earlier this year. Found at one of Bickley Valley’s vineyards, Lawnbrook Estate, the rustic eatery is a peaceful spot for brunch or lunch all year round.IMG_9668

We’ve previously been there on a sunny day and sat on the patio with a glass of wine.IMG_6679

Little Chef loved to run around on the expansive lawns.IMG_9653

This time we visited for brunch, we spent a winter’s morning sitting inside, by the roaring log fire.IMG_9661

The staff are always welcoming and friendly. The coffee is very good too.IMG_9624

The brunch cut off is 11.30am, but there are a few breakfast dishes that make it onto the lunch menu for late-risers. My top brekkie pick has to be the shakshouka. It’s one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes and the Packing Shed’s version of eggs baked in a spicy Moroccan tomato sauce is very tasty and the fresh bread is perfect for dunking! IMG_6691

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Millbrook Winery, Jarrahdale

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Millbrook Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Winery

I’ve been wistfully daydreaming for the best part of a decade that one day I’d enjoy a long lunch, glass of wine in hand, in the lakeside restaurant Millbrook Winery. To be fair, I don’t have a particularly good reason why I hadn’t made the trip to Jarrahdale, other than it’s at the opposite end of Perth to where I live. It’s not on the moon or even as far as Margaret River. So when I discovered that lunch at Millbrook was part of my research into the Peel region and it’s produce for Buy West Eat Best’s Signature Dish Competition, I was over the moon.IMG_8156

I’d been following Millbrook’s Head Chef Guy Jeffreys on Instagram, so I had an idea that fresh produce was a very important feature on their menu. He’s worked at some well renowned WA restaurants in the past, including Leeuwin Estate and David Coomer’s celebrated Star Anise. Not only is he Head Chef, but their head gardener too! More on that immense vegetable garden later…

Much to his disappointment, Chef was working, so I took my parents along for lunch at Millbrook on a sunny autumn day. Walking through the grounds, the leaves on the trees and vines were shades of red, orange and brown. It’s the sort of spot which really changes with the seasons. I hear Millbrook is also stunning in spring when the blossom is on the trees and their wisteria is blooming! IMG_8151

First off, we enjoyed an introduction to Millbrook at the cellar door with a wine tasting. These get very popular on weekends and a light menu, of cheese platters and the like, is offered to enjoy along with their wines by the lake. Picnic baskets are also available, I can’t think of a prettier setting to thrown down a rug.MIMG_7962

We tried some white and red varieties from Millbrook’s various vineyards around WA. As well as growing their own grapes on site, they require a cooler climate for other varieties, with drops from Margaret River, Pemberton and the Great Southern. My favourite of the wines I tried was the Millbrook Margaret River Vermentino, followed by their Shiraz blend.IMG_7996

The Food

The dining room is found upstairs, with panoramic views over the lake, jarrah forest, vineyards and manicured gardens. There’s a large stone fireplace on one wall, which must be wonderfully cosy on a chilly day in the Perth Hills.IMG_8009

The modern Australian menu changes regularly, depending on what is available from the garden. The food is filled with technique, imagination and passion. What you won’t find is overkill of fussy gels, soils and other Cheffyness – which is not needed when you have amazing fresh produce growing at your kitchen door. This is how good food should be, simple, exciting and delicious.

At the suggestion of our friendly waitress, we choose the 3 course choice for $75 per person, this also includes some sides. To start, we nibble on olives, warm bread and butter with a red wine salt. For entrée we share the kitchen’s choice, $42 for two people. This is a selection of dishes that’s made up from whatever is abundant in their garden each day. On this day it was three dishes – cured beef in lettuce cups with a fermented hot sauce mayo and tender squid with salsa and beans.IMG_8050

The real show stealer of the dishes was the bianco turnips, simply pulled from the veggie patch, washed and served with a creamy curds and whey and preserved lemon. We ate them root to leaf with our hands “bunny style” and absolutely relished the vibrant, fresh flavour. It says everything about Millbrook’s food philosophy – unfussy, flavoursome and fresh food. You don’t need to mess with food too much to create a memorable dish – it really starts and ends with outstanding local produce.IMG_8048

A entrée sized dish of pickles, charred octopus, chorizo and a safflower mayo ($23) was a perfect match for my glass of subtlety fruity Vermentino. If they don’t grow it themselves the Millbrook Chefs are on first name terms with their suppliers, like local pig farmer James Taylor, who they source their nitrate free chorizo from. It may not look pink like typical chorizo, but the greyish meat is packed with flavour. I’m glad it doesn’t come packed with preservatives and other nasties. The octopus is also delicious and it’s genuinely the most well cooked octopus I’ve ever had.IMG_8033

For main I bite the bullet and choose the Viognier braised rabbit risotto with bacon ($39). Having had pet bunnies as a child, I’ve struggled a bit with ordering rabbit dishes. With (a lot) of coaxing from Chef over the years, I recently plucked up the courage to give it a go and boy am I glad that I did. Generous morsels of Baldivis rabbit are laced throughout this creamy risotto, topped with shavings of parmesan. It’s a rustic, soul warming dish.IMG_8075

I have to admit, I was eying up the coffee rubbed brisket ($39), which sounded amazing. My Dad loved this dish and kindly let me try a bite, giving me serious food envy. The huge hunk of meat was cooked overnight making it moist and full of flavour. On the side was a mountain corn polenta (from corn grown in the garden), and a fresh snake bean salad. This dish was well paired with the Millbrook Estate Cabernets, which my parents agreed was a top drop of red. IMG_8063

My Mum chose the market fish of the day ($39), which was a Spangled Emperor from Broome. It was draped with the most enormous piece of broccolini. The stem was as thick as a tree trunk and easily the most flavoursome part of the vegetable. The moist fish was accompanied by a house made yogurt, Venezuelan Ají dulce chilli burnt butter and Manjimup roasted hazelnuts. These are a by-product of the truffle industry, as truffles are grown under hazelnut trees and another great example of reducing waste. IMG_8066

As well as all that, we enjoyed a generous side of potatoes and more garden fresh veg. To finish, my parents both enjoyed a light apple strudel ($16), with mascarpone parfait, shaved jujubes (an apple-like fruit) and a raisin syrup, made from grapes on the vineyard.IMG_8089

Scrumptious chocolate mousse cake ($16), with a white chocolate & ginger ice cream finished my lunch off perfectly. The candied macadamias were very moreish. IMG_8104

As well as having an abundance of rave-worthy wines to choose from, I really love how Millbrook offers some really interesting non-alcoholic drinks. I’m so bored of pre-mixed soft drinks and drinking water, after I’ve finished my glass of vino. Here there’s house made ginger spritzer, a Millbrook basil, cucumber & mint spritzer, Bannister Downs chocolate milk, Jarrahdale neccessiteas and more. I chose a refreshing seasonal fruit water kefir ($7) which on this day was made from figs.IMG_8083

The Garden

After our long lunch, Head Chef Guy Jeffreys took us for a tour of his veggie patch, which really belies the size of it. It’s quite immense, and absolutely thriving in it’s unique micro climate in the valley. Guy grows his vegetables from seeds that have been saved from the previous year’s crop, cultivating them by the moon. You can’t get much more “paddock-to-plate” than that! IMG_8119

Each day after service the chefs tend to the garden. The rows of veg are teaming with varieties of plants I’ve never heard of and are rarely, if ever, seen in Australia. If you want unique produce to work with, clearly the way is to grow it yourself. At this time of year you’re likely to see broccoli, kohlrabi, fennel, beans, rainbow chard, mustard greens, turnips, carrots, lettuce and much more.IMG_8131

Here Guy hands us green leaves, one similar to a sour sorrel, the other has the most punchy mustard flavours. The flavours from fresh veg are simply unbeatable. I’m most impressed and very interested to hear the stories behind the unique heirloom vegetables. And as well as been mindful of local produce, Guy also is careful of waste. There’s a “no waste” lunch, a selection of perishable items, on the menu for Mondays.IMG_8136

Beyond the garden there’s also an orchard, olive grove and bee hives. There’s not much on the menu at Millbrook that isn’t grown here.  We also got to say hi to the playful Lochie, Guy’s dog, who’s one lucky pooch getting to roam around this lovely part of the Perth Hills.IMG_8127

So after our tour, we stroll back up the gravel path to the winery, taking in that stunning building one more time. There’s so much to Millbrook. It’s more than just a pretty winery with a fancy restaurant. Their fresh produce philosophy means that you’ll have a unique dining experience each time you visit.

My lunch at Millbrook has in my all time top 5 meals, which includes Michelin starred spots in Europe. Do yourself a favour and don’t leave it as long as I did to book a table at Millbrook. It may well be the best lunch you’ve ever had!MIMG_8144

Millbrook Winery’s restaurant is open for lunch Thursday to Monday.

Find out more on Millbrook here.IMG_7978

Thanks to Mandurah & Peel Tourism Organisation (MAPTO) we were guests of Millbrook Winery and enjoyed a heavy discount from our bill. Nothing is exaggerated or embellished. All words and opinions are my own.

Aravina Estate – Yallingyup

UntitledawAravina Estate Restaurant & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chef and I love nothing more than a delicious meal over a glass of wine when we dine in Margaret River, though we don’t always feel comfortable taking seven year old Little Chef along to some of the fancy winery restaurants. So for us, Aravina ticks all the boxes. It is a classy, but laid back winery with great food and wine, plenty of things to do and see and best of all its family friendly!IMG_9810

On our break to Margs last year, we visited Aravina. We drove down the sweeping driveway, past the many rows of vines, parking near the lush gardens. It was the third time we’d visited. The first being a decade earlier, on our honeymoon. It was known as the Amberley Estate and their Chenin Blanc was my favourite tipple. Aravina has a French provincial style cellar door and is set in gorgeous surroundings, with lush plants and huge lawns for the kids to run about on. The dining room is equally as stunning.IMG_9825

 

Aravina’s restaurant is a great spot for a lazy lunch. We’d been here before, but not since their well renowned Executive Chef Ben Day took over the kitchen along with his team. Chef Ben is known as a bit of a forager and gather and I was excited to see which interesting local ingredients we’d get to try.  On his menu, only the highest quality local produce is used, with a lot of it grown onsite. We picked a 2014 ‘Single Vineyard’ Shiraz , $12per glass to enjoy with our lunch. It was wonderfully smooth.IMG_9830

 

Chef and I enjoyed two courses from the set menu for $60 each (or $70 for three). The Aravina menu changes regularly, so these dishes won’t be available now, but you can see how beautifully plated they are. Chef chose the tender Blue Ridge marron with marron dashi, which is a Japanese style soup. It’s served with fermented celeriac and foraged mushrooms.IMG_9837

I adored the crispy lamb pastilla, which is a little like a northern African spring roll. It was brimming with moist lamb and accompanied by a charred eggplant salad, date & rose puree and dollops of hung yoghurt.IMG_9842

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Sittella Winery – Swan Valley

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Sittella Winery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A couple of years ago I’d visited Sittella for wine tasting on a Swan Valley wine tour  and always wanted to return for lunch – it looked like a lovely place to dine. Sittella is surrounded by vineyards and has beautiful grounds overlooking a dam and gazebo.IMG_3918

We were at Sittella celebrating another Chef’s Wife – it was my Mother In Law’s birthday. We sat out on the veranda, which has sweeping views of the grape vines. The atmosphere in the restaurant is festive. I must have heard “Happy Birthday” being sung four or five times whilst we were there. It seemed to be a popular spot for a special family meal.  At times the restaurant got quite loud, but it was a jolly atmosphere of people clearly enjoying a lazy weekend lunch and the beautiful surrounds.IMG_3921

Sittella’s drinks menu has a great selection of their wines. There’s also lots of WA craft beer available by the bottle. The Sittella Pinot Noir is a very nice drop. The smooth red is made with Pemberton grapes.IMG_3923

We chatted as we grazed Sittella Winemaker’s Plate, $27.50. It is brimming with goodies. There’s smoked chorizo,  wasabi smoked salmon, shiitake arancini, a chicken and macadamia nut terrine, kalamata olives, semi-dried tomatoes, roasted artichoke hearts, port soaked figs with warm bread and Sittella’s special house made macadamia dip.       IMG_3909

For main chef chose the duck, $38.50. The tender roasted breast sits on a serve of perfectly cooked veg, the gateau of confit leg absolutely delicious and moist. The confit leg is topped with a red onion choucroute.IMG_3927

I chose the rosemary roasted lamb rack, $39.50. The sweet lamb is served medium rare, just how I like it. The tasty confit shoulder melts in the mouth. It’s accompanied by creamy sheep’s curd mash and veg.IMG_3930

Children can enjoy a three course meal for $22.50. Little Chef had these tasty fish and chips followed by a delicious chocolate pudding with sticky hot chocolate sauce. IMG_3924

Chef loved the twist on a classic crème brulee, as it had banana in it. Topped with a fresh pineapple compote and a delicious scoop of caramel and macadamia ice cream it was a scrumptious dessert. IMG_3945

One of Sittella’s signature desserts is their strawberry basket, $14. The crisp brandy snap basket is filled with Cointreau ice cream, fresh strawberrys and crushed passionfruit. IMG_3946

I absolutely love a custard tart, but very rarely get to eat them. The supermarket made tarts are often full of additives that don’t agree with me. When I spotted the Ole English custard tart, $14, on Sittella’s dessert menu I jumped at the chance to order it. The egg custard and pastry are spot on and served with mixed berries and a crème de casis (blackcurrant liquor) ice cream. A scrumptious dessert indeed! IMG_3950

The nine of us enjoyed our special lunch at Sittella. Chef Mike Price’s food style is classic and full of flavour. It’s a wonderful spot in the Swan Valley where the service is friendly, the wine is flowing and we’d absolutely dine there again. Now, when is the next family birthday?!…IMG_3954

Homestead Brewery – Swan Valley

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Homestead Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For a long time I rattled on about not having an uber-cool brewery in the Swan Valley. A spot that was found in a state of the art building, that also catered for families. Something like you’d find in the Margaret River region with a huge beer garden and modern playground. We’ve enjoyed lazy lunches at places like Eagle Bay Brewing Co, Cheeky Monkey Brewery, Colonial and many more and always wished there was something similar closer to home. Mandoon was once a small family run estate, which expanded in September 2014, to a huge multi venue spot – just what I’d been wishing for!

IMG_7299The large Mandoon building looms over its vineyards. We were there with our family from the UK who were visiting Perth. We thought Mandoon is a good choice for a spot of lunch that caters for all ages and tastes. IMG_7307

Mandoon is home to a cellar door for wine tastings, a function centre, fine dining restaurant and microbrewery – Homestead Brewery. You can drink and dine inside the brewery, on the decked veranda overlooking the vineyards or in the grassy beer garden under the shady trees, near the fenced playground. On the weekends, you’ll find a few football and crickets games played on the expansive lawns. Mandoon had a lovely family atmosphere.IMG_7325

Though it was a Monday, I was surprised at how busy it was. This time we opted to sit inside the airy, modern brewery. Chef had a pint of the “Kaisers Choice”, a German style beer that he usually chooses at Homestead.  For craft beer connoisseurs there is a good choice on tap at the brewery. Our food arrived, it looked delicious!IMG_7312

I chose the braised Moroccan lamb, $28. Mouth watering, tender pulled lamb sat upon chick peas, harissa sauce, capsicum and cous cous. The dish was brimming with middle eastern flavours and I loved it. IMG_2745

Both Chef and Little Chef had pizzas. Little chef had a Margarita ($10) from the”I’M A LITTLE PERSON & I DONT WANT ADULT FOOD” menu, which has a choice of four kids favourites. Chef thought the pizza, $25, would perfectly compliment his pint and he was right. The thin and crisp base was topped with chorizo, piquillo peppers, pickled guindillas (Spanish peppers) and red onion – Chef really enjoyed it.IMG_2743

We’ve eaten at the Homestead Brewery a few times. Each time the pub style food has been tasty, reasonable priced and good quality. Next time I’d like to go a littl emore up market and try the dego menu at their beautiful fine dining restaurant.IMG_7355

Oakover Grounds – Swan Valley

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Oakover Grounds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I love the vibe at wineries and breweries in the Margaret River area. They’re often geared towards families and I’d always hoped that the Swan Valley would follow suit with some quality family friendly venues, closer to home. Last year my prayers were answered with the fab Mandoon Estate. I’ve been hearing good things about the Oakover Winery’s transformation into kid friendly Oakover Grounds and so we headed there for lunch to check it out.IMG_2924

The winery is in a lovely setting, on a little lake and surrounded by rolling lawns. We were there for lunch, celebrating my birthday with Chef’s brother O (The Pasty Chef) and his lovely bride-to -be Kristie. It was a cool Autumn weekend, but sill pleasant enough to sit outside on the veranda.IMG_2914

I should have been sampling the Oakover wines, but coffee was calling my name. Oakover Grounds is also home to FiORi coffee, which is roasted fresh on site.IMG_2889

The menu is a good mix of casual favourites – share plates, burgers, salad and more. O and I are both pork-addicts so we both had our beady eyes on the fennel salted pork crackle with sidekick cider gel, $10. The plate was brimming with jaw cracking goodness!IMG_2893

Chef picked the organic beef burger, $26. Topped with tomato relish, bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickle and mayo, with a generous bowl of chips on the side. It was all washed down with a local craft beer. Oakover Grounds have a small selection of boutique beers on tap. IMG_2898

O and I both chose the special of house made gnocchi with pulled beef and mushrooms. Wow, that was a stunning dish and something I was not expecting! The pillowy soft gnocchi was amongst the best I’ve had and complimented  by the rich meaty sauce. I could have happily licked the plate clean. If it was a permanent fixture on the menu I’d be back in a heartbeat.IMG_2900

Kristy enjoyed the Clarence River school prawns, $13. The crisp prawns are eaten whole, served on a bed of creamy tartar sauce and grilled lemon on the side. It would also be a great dish to share.IMG_2895

Little Chef scoffed his kids cheese burger, $12. The slider style burger  was made up of a beef pattie, tomato relish and cheese and chips on the side.IMG_2890

Afterwards, Little Chef was keen to have a ride on the peddle boats. They are free to use. It was good fun and worked off a little bit of lunch! IMG_2906

Keen Fishermen Chef and O were excited to hear the lake is stocked with fish. Rods are free to use and if you catch anything then you can take it home for dinner, at $16 per fish. The boys caught 5 Barramundi in just 15 mins, they were stoked!! IMG_2929

Fish for dinner! IMG_2930

New Head Chef Bec McConnell has banged the pans at some fine Swan Valley establishments, including Sandleford Winery. We enjoyed her food and will certainly be back for more!

Oh and if you need any more reasons to dine at Oakover…

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Plume Estate Vineyard Cafe – Bickley

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Plume Estate Vineyard Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

It’s no secret that I have a big love for the Perth Hills, in particular the Kalamunda area where I grew up. Back in the 1980s there wasn’t much to look at in the Bickley Valley – it was full of orchards, a couple of boutique vineyards and aromas from the Wheat a Bix factory. It’s still full of orchards and vineyards, though it is fast becoming an area full of places to visit, like The Core Cider House and many wineries with cafes and restaurants dotted through the bushy valley.IMG_0859

We went for a Sunday drive with my parents and ended up at a relatively new winery – Plume Estate. The carpark is down a steep gravel driveway, so we dropped my mum at the entrance. There’s a cellar door and a light and open rustic café – which has balcony views out over the rolling hills.IMG_0852

At Plume, the wines are made by Myattsfield and their range includes a sparkling pinot noir, a rosé made from merlot, some chardonnays, merlot, shiraz and a fortified shiraz too.IMG_0850

There is a beautiful Labrador called Nugget at Plume, who was chilling out at the cellar door. We were devastated to loose our Labrador, Bailey, mid last year. Though it was a few months down the track, I actually struggled with seeing a dog so similar to our Bailey. I was really fighting tears. Nugget seemed to have the same kind nature and was happy to have a gentle rub too.IMG_0849

We shared a Turkish Platter, $40. It’s really meant to be shared by 2 people, but we all just felt like a light graze – having already had lunch. It was well stocked platter: Turkish style meatballs Hummus, Egyptian dukka, Wilura Margaret River Olive Oil, Sicilian olives, almonds and marinated goats cheese. On the side was a loaf of sliced Turkish Bread.

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All the produce on the platter was of exceptional quality and very fresh. I particularly relished the tasty meatballs – with it’s rich tomato and cumin flavours. Also, I don’t usually eat green olives (just Kalamata), but I really enjoyed the Sicilian olives. They were plump, firm, fresh and they actually tasted like an olive – not like the salty brine soaked olives I’ve had in the past.

A glass of red went down very well with the food and my Mum bought a bottle to take home too. There is a limited menu, but there is also a cheese platter, sliders and some sweets available too.

Plume’s owners are warm and welcoming, it’s a relaxing place to be. Little Chef was stoked that there was a small basket of toys to play with and he was occupied with duplo, while we enjoyed the view.IMG_0855

It’s a lovely little spot for nibbles and a vino. We enjoyed Plume and would certainly return…IMG_0857

… especially for those meatballs!IMG_0841